“The virgin will give birth to a son, and they will call him
Immanuel, which means, ‘God with us’.” Matthew 1:23
December is somehow dominated by one holiday – – Christmas! But it is often difficult finding Christmas. The music, the television specials, the movies stream on cable channels, the store decorations, the homes, even streets all bear witness that Christmas is coming. There is the constant “watering down of Christmas”, as the use of “holiday trees”, cashier’s ‘holiday’ greetings, snowmen, reindeer, and Santa do battle with the Wiseman, the shepherds, the crèche, and the angels. It is the clash of the sacred and the secular.
Recently, Jesus found himself nestled in a manger between a menorah and Christmas tree in Founders Circle, Bal Harbor, Florida when the unthinkable happened… Jesus was stolen! Nothing else was taken; Mary and Joseph stood their posts, the Magi were still bowing in worship with their gifts, the animals milled around as if nothing had happened, shepherd kept one eye on their sheep, and angels still appeared angelic as ever, the crèche was undisturbed. Life seemed as if it was going on as usual – -without Jesus. What a pathetic scene!
Interesting, a local Jewish man, Jeffrey Harris, offered to replace the babe using his own money. Jeffrey brought the replacement to Dian.
Dian asked people to donate money to equip the babe with a GPS imbedded device, saying, “We need to rely on technology to save our Savior!” Money poured in; Dian then made sure Jesus was firmly bolted to the crèche floor, so he wouldn’t go anywhere; she was delighted that the next person who attempted to steal “our Jesus” would be tracked down and punished! (If we remember the Biblical story, it might not be good to equate ourselves with those who longed to be able to hunt Jesus down!)
When I read, “we need technology to save our Savior” I was reminded of the theme song from “Jesus Christ Superstar” where the disciples ask why Jesus came when he did because “Israel in B.C. had no mass communications”! (Do you think YouTube might have helped?)
It seems right that a Jewish man would move to redeem the kidnapped child, born to young Jewish parents, displaced by political agenda, and relegated to be born humbly in a manger. Meanwhile, the religious of the community (the Christians) seemed to be lost in the need to “guard” Jesus and protect him from evil. This is a sad scene because the Christmas story claims the babe Jesus came to confront evil and redeem the world back to a relationship with God. It is the height of hubris to assume ‘we know what’s best for Jesus’ – – didn’t Jesus come because we didn’t know what’s best?
Every child that acts out the Christmas story knows that the birth of Jesus brings a new kind of life, a new kind of love, and a new kind of hope free of hatred, greed, bitterness, and revenge. Children each year act out a story their parents and grandparents “starred” in years ago. The dramatic representation happens in the midst of great exuberance, great disappointment (“I didn’t want to be a sheep!”), great confusion (runaway donkeys + fallen halos) and great expectation. This child-centered story tells us God did not fear the temporal, the ordinary, the humble; our God humbly took on our flesh and was born helpless and vulnerable in a meager manger. Our story is not a sentimental fairytale. This infant child is threatened – – a despot wishes to crush him, wars rage throughout the world, and Jesus’ survival is in question. Every child knows “there is something precious here that needs to be saved”. Sectarian evil threatens the sacred with extinction… it is clear we are in danger of losing a precious gift.
So our children create Christmas baskets, sing carols to light up the lives of others, offer musical prayer responses, bake cookies, and recreate the Christmas story. That’s the Christmas story isn’t it? There is a gift from God that we need to preserve, otherwise, it will go missing and the
world will be left to darkness. In the midst of the clash of the sacred with the secular, we need to find and treasure this gift.